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Australia has zero tolerance for racist attacks: Smith

New Delhi, March 2 (IANS) Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith Tuesday said his country has ‘zero tolerance for assaults on Indians or against anyone else who comes to Australia’.

‘Regrettable… as I said to my parliament that there have been some racial or racist overtones to a small number of those assaults and we condemn them absolutely,’ he said, shortly after he arrived here on his third visit to India.

Smith underlined that several steps have been taken to ensure that people have an ‘enjoyable and safe experience’ when they visit his country.

Smith’s comments come soon after a fresh assault against a Sri Lankan man and his Indian wife in Melbourne Sunday morning.

The attacks on Indian students and steps taken by Canberra to ensure the safety of Indian students in that country will figure prominently in discussions between External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna and Smith Wednesday.

‘(I) will brief the Indian government on the actions taken by authorities to create a safe and rewarding study environment for Indian students in Australia,’ Smith said in a statement in Melbourne prior to his departure.

‘Krishna and I will discuss Australia’s and India’s close cooperation in trying to solve the recent problems faced by some Indians in Australia,’ he added.

There have been a series of visits to India by top Australian leaders, including Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and his deputy Julia Gillard, to allay concerns in the wake of assaults on Indian students that are suspected by many in India to be racist in nature despite Canberra’s denials.

The assaults on Indian students started in May last year, putting bilateral ties under stress.

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